How To Use Unique Plants In The Garden

by Amanda

Unique Plants - echinops

Echinops is one of our favorite unique perennials. The fantastic globe-shaped flowers attract a parade of pollinators to the summer garden.

Although we all love the classic look that Daylilies, Hostas, and more bring to the landscape, there’s something exciting about trying new, unique varieties that can’t be found at the garden center. These unique plants create instant focal points and are often a conversation piece for visitors to the garden.

The Benefits Of Unique Plants

Have you heard the saying that people are supposed to fear the unknown? This logic should be thrown right out the window in gardening. It’s fun to embrace new, unique plants you may never have heard of. It’s also a great challenge as a gardener to take something you’ve never tried before and make it at home in your landscape. Unique plants have many, many benefits to both the expert and novice gardener:

You can’t find them everywhere. Many unique varieties can't be found in the big garden centers, as they may require horticultural expertise at their earliest stages. Look to reliable mail-order sites that employ knowledgeable staff at their greenhouses. To find varieties that set your garden apart from your friends’ and neighbors', you'll need to look beyond the big box stores!

They are easy to grow. A common misconception for hard-to-find varieties is that they are tricky and high maintenance. This just isn’t true! While getting them started may require non-traditional techniques, these varieties are just as easy to grow as any other perennials or bulbs you’ve worked with. You’ll just need to pay close attention to the planting details.

Many are deer resistant. This is a big one! Many of the unique varieties we sell are deer and rabbit resistant. This makes them a great choice for planting outside a fence for a bold statement or anywhere you have pesky critters.

hellstrip gardening - wildflowers

Red Hot Poker stands out among classic Geranium, Hosta, and Catmint.

  1. White Dutchman's Breeches, Dicentra cucullaria

    One of America's most famous wildflowers, Dutchman's Breeches is a small, wild version of Bleeding Heart, with creamy white flowers so named for their resemble to a pair of upside-do...

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    Dutchman's Breeches Dutchman's Breeches Dicentra cucullaria
    $11.99 Sale $8.99
    Per Bag of 3
    One of America's most famous wildflowers, Dutchman's Breeches is a small, wild version of Bleeding Heart, with creamy white flowers so named for their resemble to a pair of upside-down, hung-to-dry pants. Blooming in early spring, the delicate fern-like foliage lasts on, changing from a gray-green to pale yellow. A simple yet striking addition to the shade or woodland garden. (Dicentra cucullaria)
  2. Blue Vinca minor, Vinca minor, Periwinkle or Creeping Myrtle

    Creeping Myrtle or Periwinkle. This famous Vinca spreads to make great patches under trees. Blue flowers. (Vinca minor)...

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    Vinca Periwinkle, Creeping Myrtle Vinca minor
    As low as $9.99 Sale $7.49
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Creeping Myrtle or Periwinkle. This famous Vinca spreads to make great patches under trees. Blue flowers. (Vinca minor)
  3. Purple Larkspur or Wild Delphinium, Delphinium tricorne, Photo Credit - Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org

    Dwarf Larkspur is a gorgeous native wildflower, with uniquely-shaped, deep-purple blooms. A shorter variety that's perfect for border edges or small-space gardens, Dwarf Larkspur com...

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    Dwarf Larkspur Dwarf Larkspur Delphinium tricorne
    $11.99 Sale $8.99
    Per Bag of 3
    Dwarf Larkspur is a gorgeous native wildflower, with uniquely-shaped, deep-purple blooms. A shorter variety that's perfect for border edges or small-space gardens, Dwarf Larkspur comes into bloom in early to mid spring. Although it draws in a myriad of insects, this plant has a special relationship to both hummingbirds and queen bumblebees, who serve as its only two effective pollinators. (Delphinium tricorne)
  4. Green Dragon, Arisaema dracontium

    Bring a tropical look to your garden with native, deer-resistant Green Dragon! This tall cousin of Jack-in-the-Pulpit sports an unusual leaf and even more unusual flower spathe with ...

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    Green Dragon Green Dragon Arisaema dracontium
    $12.65 Sale $9.49
    Per Bag of 3
    Bring a tropical look to your garden with native, deer-resistant Green Dragon! This tall cousin of Jack-in-the-Pulpit sports an unusual leaf and even more unusual flower spathe with a long, fascinating spadix. In summer, a club-like formation of bright red seeds forms along the spathe, bringing a bright spark of color to moist woodland gardens. (Arisaema dracontium)

Add A Focal Point With Unique Plants

Unique Plants - Crocosmia

This Crocosmia planted with classic Hydrangea elevates the garden to something unique and professional-looking.

Unique plants are an easy way to add a showy focal point to the garden, especially if you’re working with a small landscape. If your garden space is limited, plant unique varieties like spikey-bloomed Sea Holly, or low-growing Anemones to create a big, bold statement. Even if you choose just one unique variety for your small space garden and fill in the rest with classic favorites, that one focal point will go a long way in elevating your garden.

The same principle goes for larger gardens; if you’re looking to create a focal point in your garden, add a unique and conversation-worthy variety. For larger spaces, you may want to plant a grouping of 5 or more plants to add that “wow” factor and not let the unique variety get lost in the rest of your garden.

Create Symmetry And Cohesion With Unique Plants

Unique Plants - Anemones

Anemones are a low-growing bulb that can be planted both in the spring and fall. The colorful blooms are deer resistant and great for small space gardens.

Unique plants can also be used in existing garden beds to create symmetry and cohesion. This is an easy way to achieve a professionally-designed look in your garden beds. Choose one or more unique varieties and plant them in groupings (3-5), repeating the same throughout your garden beds. You can do this with almost any perennial variety, but unique plants instantly make your garden stand out.

When you use plants to add cohesion to the garden, you have several options.

  • You can plant them in groupings randomly throughout the garden. Or, you can choose to add them in the center and flanking both ends of the garden for a more symmetrical look. The choice is up to you and your garden style.
  • If you’re looking for a more formal look, you may want to use symmetry in your groupings.
  • If you prefer a wild or informal garden, simply placing the groupings throughout the garden will help to add the cohesion you're looking for.

Unique Plants For Woodland Areas

Unique Plants - shooting star

Shooting Star is a native perennial that thrives in shade to partial sun, offering up delicate white, lavender, or pink blooms in the spring months. The smaller size makes it perfect for a small space shade garden.

If you want to create a big statement in your shade garden, there are a variety of unique plants that thrive in wet, shady areas. These are a great alternative (or addition) to the classic Bleeding Hearts, Hostas, and Ferns that often fill in the shade garden. Many of these woodland plants are native and bloom very early in the season, extending the interest in your garden.

  • Jack in the Pulpit’s uniquely-shaped foliage and brilliant red berries make this a fantastic early spring beauty.
  • Black Cohosh is a native woodland that gets to be 8’ tall and boasts tall, white spiky blooms.
  • Shooting Star is a brilliant native perennial that offers produces unusual pointed blooms in the spring garden.
  • Foam Flower’s white, feathery blooms add texture and interest to the early spring garden. Get creative and add some of these hard-to-find varieties in your shade garden to make it the star of your landscape.

Experiment With Unique Plants

Unique Plants - sea holly

Sea Holly is a fantastic easy-to-grow perennial. The blooms are so intruiging!

Whether you’re gardening in a city or have a lot of land, have fun in your garden and experiment with unique varieties. You'll enjoy the big statement that these unique varieties add almost instantly. And you'll definitely enjoy the compliments and conversations that arise when visitors spot the hard-to-find varieties in your landscape.

  1. Pink Belladonna Lily or Naked Ladies blooming in container planting

    A gorgeous flower with many identities: Belladonna Lily, Naked Ladies, or Belladonna Amaryllis, this plant produces green, leafy growth that emerges in spring and dies back by mid su...

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    Belladonna Lily or Naked Ladies Belladonna Lily, Naked Ladies Amaryllis belladonna
    As low as $19.99 Sale $14.99
    Per Bag of 1
    A gorgeous flower with many identities: Belladonna Lily, Naked Ladies, or Belladonna Amaryllis, this plant produces green, leafy growth that emerges in spring and dies back by mid summer. In late summer, leafless stems produce elegant, pink flowers. Belladonna Lilies are hardy in zones 7 - 11 and are considered annuals in all other zones. (Amaryllis belladonna)
  2. Eva Crocosmia, Crocosmia Eva

    Eva Crocosmia is a pollinator favorite, attracting hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies with bright orange tubular flowers. Blooms open sequentially along arched stems for a long-last...

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    Eva Crocosmia Eva Crocosmia Crocosmia Eva
    As low as $18.65 Sale $13.98
    Per Bag of 10
    Eva Crocosmia is a pollinator favorite, attracting hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies with bright orange tubular flowers. Blooms open sequentially along arched stems for a long-lasting airy texture and pop of color from mid-summer through fall. Plant en masse for a stunning display, with plenty to use in cut flower arrangements. Thick, sword-like foliage adds attractive texture to the garden.
  3. Shade Porch Red Bulb Collection

    This Shade Porch Bulb Collection is a showcase of stunning red flowers and foliage for shade gardens and container plantings on the porch. Huge Double Scarlet Begonia flowers bloom a...

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    Shade Porch Red Bulb Collection Shade Porch Red Bulb Collection
    $23.98 Sale $17.98
    Per Collection of 6
    This Shade Porch Bulb Collection is a showcase of stunning red flowers and foliage for shade gardens and container plantings on the porch. Huge Double Scarlet Begonia flowers bloom a brilliant red against the multi-colored leaves of Red Flash Caladium, painted in red, pink, and green hues. Contrasting foliage textures add interest to this easy-to-grow pair. Collection of 6 bulbs.
  4. Pink Rain Lily Flowers Close Up, Zephyranthes

    The darling, crocus-like blooms of Pink Rain Lilies are sweethearts of the summer garden. Popping out of the ground after summer rains, these tender perennial bulbs are pollinator fr...

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    Pink Rain Lily Pink Rain Lily, Fairy Lily Zephyranthes robusta Pink
    $13.32 Sale $9.99
    Per Bag of 25
    The darling, crocus-like blooms of Pink Rain Lilies are sweethearts of the summer garden. Popping out of the ground after summer rains, these tender perennial bulbs are pollinator friendly and as adorable as can be. Their clear pink blooms resemble miniature versions of their close cousin, the Amaryllis. (Zephyranthes robusta)
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